Theta burst stimulation for depression: a systematic review and network and pairwise meta-analysis

Taro Kishi, Toshikazu Ikuta, Kenji Sakuma, Masakazu Hatano, Yuki Matsuda, Jonas Wilkening, Roberto Goya-Maldonado, Martin Tik, Nolan R. Williams, Shinsuke Kito, Nakao Iwata

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


In clinical practice, theta burst stimulation (TBS) presents as a more efficient and potentially more effective therapeutic modality than conventional repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS), as it allows for the delivery of more stimuli in less time and at similar intensities. To date, accelerated treatment plans according to various continuous (cTBS) and intermittent TBS (iTBS) protocols for depression have been proposed. To investigate which of the TBS protocols provided a favorable risk-benefit balance for individuals with depression, this systematic review and random-effects model network meta-analysis was conducted. The study outcomes included response rate (primary), depression symptom improvement, remission rate, all-cause discontinuation rate, incidence of switch to mania, and incidence of headache/discomfort at treatment site. In this meta-analysis, a total of 23 randomized controlled trials (n = 960, mean age = 41.88 years, with 60.78% females) were included. Approximately 69.57% of the trials included individuals with an exclusive diagnosis of major depressive disorder. The following six TBS protocols (target) were evaluated: cTBS (right-dorsolateral prefrontal cortex [R-DLPFC]), cTBS (R-DLPFC) + iTBS (left-DLPFC [L-DLPFC]), iTBS (L-DLPFC), iTBS (L-DLPFC) + iTBS (R-DLPFC), iTBS (left-dorsomedial prefrontal cortex) + iTBS (right-dorsomedial prefrontal cortex), and iTBS (occipital lobe). Compared to sham, cTBS (R-DLPFC) + iTBS (L-DLPFC), iTBS (L-DLPFC), and iTBS (occipital lobe) had a higher response rate (k = 23); cTBS (R-DLPFC) + iTBS (L-DLPFC) and iTBS (L-DLPFC) dominated in the depression symptom improvement (k = 23); and iTBS (L-DLPFC) had a higher remission rate (k = 15). No significant differences were found for all-cause discontinuation rate (k = 17), incidence of switch to mania (k = 7), and incidence of headache/discomfort at treatment site (k = 10) between any TBS protocols and sham. Thus, cTBS (R-DLPFC) + iTBS (L-DLPFC) and iTBS (L-DLPFC) demonstrate favorable risk-benefit balance for the treatment of depression.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Psychiatry
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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